Only A Hobo / The Big Rock Candy
Edgar Rice Burroughs On The Road To Salvation
R. E. Prindle
Part 3a (Continued from Part 2b: ERBzine 1332)
On Auto Pilot In The Ozone I
She said: There is no reason,
And the truth is plain to see.
As I wandered through my playing cards
I would not let her be.
"Out There Somewhere" capped the period of phenomenal productivity from 1911-1915. In the twenty-two previous novels Burroughs had brought his psychology to the culminating point. In "Out There Somewhere" he had slipped his own persona, or one of them from under the domination and control of his oppressor, the Irish John the Bully. He could not escape John's shadow. In later life he would confess to having a dual personality.
Always driven to see salvation there rather than here ERB fell under the spell of Knibbs' poem:"And then that slim, poetic guy he turned and looked me in the eye:"So now with the spirit of Knibbs on him he wished to leave here for there. Not just to most anywhere that isn't here but . . .
'. . . It's overland and overland and overseas -- to where?'
"Most anywhere that isn't here," I says. His face went kind of queer."
'The place we're in is always here. The other place is there.'". . . somewhere in the South,Did Burroughs really expect to find his
Down where the clouds lie on the sea . . ."". . . sweet PenelopeI think so. Look at the picture of ERB in San Diego in 1916 after his mad dash for the coast. The Mysterious Stranger standing on the rock by the sea with the clouds or mist lying over the water. Was his mind filled with his fantasy? Was he already looking for his Penelope? He eventually did find her. Or tried.
with buds of roses in her hair and kisses on her mouth?"
Not only had Burroughs slipped the bands of John the Bully, but in his next novel, Bridge and the Oskaloosa Kid he would reclaim his Anima. This would have profound effects on his marriage to Emma.
When Fate and John the Bully took possession of his Anima in 1883 or '84 the deed precluded Burroughs being able to form any relationship with any woman he met after that date. However, he could continue relationships with a girl he had known before that date. Although "castrated" or emasculated ERB did not react by becoming a homosexual which was, of course, a possible choice. But as he had not been physically violated he obviously rejected that alternative. All decision making went on subconsciously, not in his intelligent mind.
As he did want to have a female relationship, as is evidenced by the treasure Gail Prim carried in her coat pockets, he had no choice but to marry Emma. I imagine he was very troubled and ambiguous in his relationship to her. Now at the age of 40-41 he reclaimed his Anima, which meant that he could now form relationships with new women. Judging from his fictional alter-Animas they were physically quite different from Emma.
It should perhaps come as no surprise that in 1918's Tarzan the Untamed Burroughs kills off Jane, while he feels stirrings of love for another woman -- but cuts them off.
Emma, who read all Burroughs' books as his first reader, saw the direction of things. She realized that if Jane died in Tarzan the Untamed their relationship was indeed over, and objected so strenuously that ERB resuscitated Jane having her abducted to the prehistoric land of Pal-ul-don, or, before John the Bully. Having recovered her, just after their return to Africa Tarzan leaves Jane to visit his lovely La, High Priestess of Opar.
For now, in 1916, he packs Emma and children up for a long and bizarre auto trip to California. While from our vantage point in history we may dismiss the cross-country trip from Chicago to LA as rather mundane, at the time such a trip was high adventure. Indeed, few people could claim to have done it.
This was still in the period of the great transcontinental auto races when prizes were offered for completing the race. Even then there seems little reason for Burroughs to have taken about 100 days to complete the journey (Ed. Note: The truncated excursion to Indiana, Michigan and back: June 14 - July 28 ~ followed by the decision to change direction for California: August 7 - September 23). After all, Nellie Bly had already gone round the world in slightly less than eighty days.
If you look at the little figure at the lower end of the New York Globe diagram you will see a figure denoted Weston. This guy was one of America's great walkers. In 1867 he had walked form Portland, Maine to Chicago. In 1909, as his last bow, Edward Payson Weston walked from New York to San Francisco. He completed the 3,890 miles in 106 days -- five days less than it took Burroughs to drive a thousand miles fewer.
Still ERB was not in the same class as a gentleman by the name of Cal Rogers. In 1911 he took up the challenge to try for the prize offered by William Randolph Hearst to be the first to fly from coast to coast in thirty days. Cal didn't win that prize. It took him forty-nine days to fly from New York to Pasadena, just a stone's throw from the Pacific Ocean.
The above stats are just a little phluph to put ERB's feat into perspective. Not everyone would undertake such a trip while probably no one would have done it in his manner.
Burroughs was undoubtedly beginning to live out a long-planned, well-nurtured vision of his future. Motivated by the life on the road of his alter-Animus Bridge, ERB began his strange compulsive journey back to the South and the sea mists.
Check out the accompanying photo of Burroughs. He had this photo taken on the 1916 trip. His biographer, Porges, identifies the location only as somewhere on the Pacific coast, which leaves a lot of latitude. I assume it must be somewhere around Santa Monica in California. Note the pose as the Mysterious Stranger standing on the rock with the oceanic waters prominent. Check out that disinterested superior condescending look on his face as he gazes at nothing with his hands half in his overcoat pockets. He could have been a model for the Shadow. Obviously he feels that he has trumped Fate with this ace in the hole.
If he had felt flush in 1913 he now believed himself wealthy. Nineteen-fourteen and nineteen-fifteen had been very successful years selling to the pulps. In 1914 a local Chicago publisher, McClurg's, had published Tarzan of the Apes followed by The Return of Tarzan 1915. Tarzan of the Apes was one of the best selling books of the decade, running into the millions, so that in 1916, with book royalties and a huge catalog of unpublished books behind him, he had every reason to believe in continued prosperity.
If the 1913 trip West had been expensive in manner, Burroughs now outdid himself. He himself drove a Packard twin six, while he hired another driver to drive a truck pulling a trailer. He must have believed himself to be like his hero H. M. Stanley trekking across Africa.
He took along over two tons of, what shall I say, stuff, that he unpacked at night, repacking it in the morning. To house himself, his wife and three small children along the way he had a huge striped tent made, reminiscent of the circus with a canvas floor, which he pitched beside the muddy ruts that passed for roads in those days before the expansive minds of road builders disfigured the landscape with the Inerstates -- the Super Slab -- celebrated in song and story.
Burroughs was not in a normal state of mind. The stress of resolving his Anima problem had unsettled him. Whenever he entered a period of great stress his alter-Animus Tarzan was struck on the head losing his memory. This had happened in his Tarzan and the Jewels of Opar, written in July and September of 1915, just before he began "Bridge and the Oskaloosa Kid." So now Burroughs was operating in a fugue state in which his subconscious controlled his actions. He wouldn't have been able to account for his reasons for his proceedings. The pull of his subconscious was irresistible. Poor Emma.
He wanted bo be there rather than here. He obviously didn't want to come back to Chicago because in his fugue state he locked his keys in his house when he left.
His and Emma's planned destination when they left was Maine where his mother and father had lived for a couple years. He never got there or even close. Leaving Chicago his trail led him North into Michigan. Lost in the ozone he managed to nearly destroy his truck somehow forgetting to put oil in the crankcase.
Leaving Emma and the kids at her sister's vacation home, ERB continued with the truck to Alma, Michigan, a hundred forty miles north in Central Michigan, not too far from Mt. Pleasant. Been there.
Returning to Coldwater ERB then made a flying trip to Detroit where he appeared in the newsrooms of the Detroit Journal. One can imagine the consternation of the newsmen as this apparition burst upon them dressed in puttees announcing breathlessly that he was Edgar Rice Burroughs the author of Tarzan, just as though it was inevitable that they had not only heard of him, but knew who he was.
Assuming they had, impostors of famous people were not unknown in those days as ERB was to learn. While by 1916 Tarzan was becoming famous it is possible that some men in the newsroom had never heard of the phenomenon or had dismissed it as another nine days wonder. Who could know that both Burroughs and Tarzan would be going strong a hundred years later. Certainly none of them had ever seen Burroughs or a picture of him. Nevertheless they reported the visit in the paper along with the gist of ERB's chat which reads like a litany of complaints and woes although he undoubtedly intended to be humorous.
What subconscious need he had to tell Detroiters that he was a success and not a failure must reach back to some deep sense of rejection incurred from his military school days.
Although his biographer, Irwin Porges, believes that Burroughs changed his mind about going on to Maine because of a reported polio epidemic (a serious matter before vaccines), I doubt that Burroughs ever had any intent but to seek his Penelope somewhere in the South where the mists sit on the sea.
If anything the trip to Coldwater was intended to erase any feelings of failure the Hulbert family might have about him. ERB married Emma Hulbert as the century turned in 1900. Married life had not been easy for Burroughs. His troubles caused by John the Bully had been compounded. His wife's family had strenuously objected to the union. Burroughs' life had been so erratic, while he himself appeared to be so unstable, that they wanted their daughter to have nothing to do with him. Wisely, as it turned out.
After all, her father who was an alderman was of some significance in Chicago. When Emma ignored their reservations about Burroughs one must believe that their worst fears had been realized by the sequel. Burroughs continued to be erratic after marrying Emma; his behavior appears to be that of an unstable man.
After dragging their daughter back and forth across the continent after marriage, he returned to sponge off them. Burroughs makes much of his poverty. Apart from being self-inflicted by his own erratic behavior the depth of his poverty does not seem to be real. His last job before his success at writing was earning him fifteen hundred dollars a year. Poverty level for a family of four at the time was seven hundred sixty dollars a year. So he was earning at least twice the poverty level.
Ordinary wages for unskilled labor were a dollar or two a day, while at thirty dollars a week Burroughs was earning six dollars a day, not including rent. His wife's family had been providing free lodging for years while in tough times he and Emma could eat with either his or her parents. One imagines he and Emma received frequent gifts from both sets of parents.
This would be very difficult psychologically but it appears to have been self-imposed; once again as a result of his street corner confrontation with John the Bully. Burroughs sought to live like a bum until he made that lucky strike. His life had been lived as though he too were climbing the Chilkoot Pass.
Over the years Burroughs had also stayed at the Hulbert vacation home in Coldwater. Now, 1916, having scaled the slopes of the Big Rock Candy Mountain, he felt the need to expiate his guilt and shame.
One can only guess at the intensity of his feelings. Perhaps an indication of how deeply he resented his dependence on Emma's family was that tat the end of Tarzan of the Apes, after Tarzan has followed his future wife Jane Porter to the United States, she is at a vacation home in Wisconsin. Burroughs has a huge forest fire envelope and destroy the home from which he rescues Jane.
One can only guess that the Wisconsin home represents the Hulbert home in Coldwater, Michigan, but I rather think ERB's feelings ran that deep.
One can only imagine how Emma's family felt about what they must have considered her failed husband, talking to her about him behind ERB's back. One can feel the reproach as they undoubtedly asked him how his job was getting on. Burroughs must have felt his position keenly.
If he and Emma had visited the Hulbert vacation home as needy recipients in the past ERB could now exult in his prosperity to the fullest. That revenge was sweet can be seen in the photograph taken at the time. Look at that smug look on his face. Watch him flex those exposed muscles. See those feet spread wide apart in a commanding stance. He's made it and he wants the Hulberts to know it.
He and his family not only came to the Hulbert vacation home to stay a whole month during the vacation season but he virtually brought his house with him in the form of his circus tent and he also brought two-and-a-halftons of possessions. He wanted them to know that the had money, he was no longer dependent on them.
Sitting with the family he could casually let drop the fact that he, Emma and the kids were taking a year off leaving for the coast from Coldwater.
Having cleansed himself of his sense of guilt in Coldwater and Detroit he returned to Chicago where a few days later the family began its incredible cross-country journey.
Having now reached his psychological crisis Burroughs' literary fecundity received a check. From March 1916 to January 1917 Burroughs wrote nothing but some short stories about Tarzan (Jungle Tales of Tarzan) to which he was already committed. The first six months of 1917 were devoted to writing "Bridge and the Oskaloosa Kid." The rest of 1917 and the first seven months of 1918 were devoted to penning his trilogy of novellas: The Land That Time Forgot.
These two works are pivotal to understanding Burroughs. Writing effortlessly before the period, composition now became more laborious.
Just as the epic of Jack Johnson was central to The Mucker and "Out There Somewhere," the saga of the IWW, the Industrial Workers of the World or Wobblies, as they were popularly known, was the political theme between these two later works.The Wobblies are nearly forgotten now but they were of supreme importance in the second decade of the twentieth century here in the United States.What path is left for you to tread
When hunger wolves are slinking near --
Do you not know the West is dead?
The "blanket-stiff" now packs his bed
Along the trail of yesterday --
What path is left for you to tread?
Your fathers, gold sunsets led
To virgin prairies wide and clear --
Do you not know the West is dead?
Now dismal cities rise instead
And freedom is not there nor here --
What path is left for you to tread?
Your father's world, for which they bled,
Is fenced and settled far and near --
Do you not know the West is dead?
Your fathers gained a crust of bread
Their bones bleach on the lost frontier;
What path is left for you to tread --
Do you not know the West is dead?~ Anon. As quoted by Ralph Chaplin in his autobiography: Wobbly
Reverting to the prologue. The great Klondike gold strike was the last of the gold rushes. It was where the West died for these men. The hordes of displaced men who teemed the Chilkoot Pass at the turn of the century had drifted away, but where and to what? You don't think they got a job, do you? Their dreams of striking it rich were dashed forever, the West was dead. The bindle-stiffs milled around not knowing where to go next. The Big Rock Candy Mountain faded from the horizon into the mists of mythology, nearly forgotten today. Even as the century turned in the United States the great mining corporations had ousted the itinerant prospector although many still roamed the West. Some like Edward Doheny, then of Los Angeles, who had lost his properties in Mexico, had given up hard prospecting for the oil fields.
Those restless souls ever in search of the fabled Mountain now roamed the West only as hoboes, tramps and bums constantly on the move accepting whatever transient jobs as harvesters, when they had to work, or handouts when they didn't. That Big Rock Candy Mountain was now less than a shimmering mirage.
First in anger and frustration the hard rock miners -- hard rock as opposed to the soft coal miners -- had formed the Western Federation of Miners operating mainly along the line of the Rockies.
Among their leaders was one Big Bill Haywood. Big Bill was native to the deserts of Nevada when all was wild and access to the land restricted. He and his kind liked it that way. In his youth he had had his own private diggings to which he could go to repair his finances, not unlike Tarzan and the fabulous vaults of Opar.
Then the mining corporations and land companies came in. Big Bill lost his source of income as well as his homestead. He got bitter; bitter and surly. He had been castrated in the psychological sense. Realizing his impotence as an individual he formed the WFM. If there was no hope of regaining his manhood individually, perhaps as a member of a group he could.
Apparently given to extreme solutions, in other words, he wanted to win, Big Bill was driven from the WFM.
About this time, 1905, the IWW with its notion of the "One Big Union" came into existence. The IWW was composed of that type of man who was off like a shot at the report of a gold strike away out there beyond the West somewhere in the vicinity of that mythical range of Big Rock Candy Mountains.
Unable to apply themselves to steady work while now denied the hope of the Big Strike, these "men who don't fit in" abandoned pie in the sky for a free lunch here on earth. They would band together to take from society what they wanted if they couldn't hope for riches from nature. The idea of the IWW as "One Big Union" was a strange one because none of these men had steady jobs. The idea of a bunch of itinerant freight train riders, fruit pickers and grain harvesters bringing society to its knees to wrest a free living seems ludicrous on the face of it. Although, at the present day the "homeless" who are successors to the hoboes have a free lunch program in the Red city of San Francisco with the possibility of taking over the town.
Needless to say, many, if not most of these men were not averse to criminal activity as Burroughs portrays them in "Out There Somewhere" and "Bridge and the Kid." Burroughs traces them back to Coxey's Army of 1894 when a man named Jacob Coxey organized these men and the unemployed in a march on Washington to demand relief form the depression of 1893.
ERB apparently watched the hoboes closely both from a disgust for them and a psychological affinity to them.
Bypassing the early stupendous adventures of the Western Federation of Miners (in Colorado they're still mentally fighting those wars) we will begin with the incredible Free Speech Movement of 1910-12. The Berkeley Free Speech Movement of the early 1960s was an echo of the Wobbly adventure.
As in the case of Big Bill Haywood in Nevada the Wobblies took the seizure of mineral rights and the preemption of timber lands in the West as a personal affront to them made by grabbers who had no legal rights. There was a great deal of justice in their complaint for the mineral corporations and the individuals who roped off the mines and timberlands had no more just claim to them than these itinerants who were quite content to leave the West free and untrammeled.
Well, the itinerants were reduced to accepting low wages coupled with abominable working conditions while suffering the contempt of the owners who they considered thieves.
Organizing, they then began to agitate. They began in Spokane, orating from soap boxes on street corners. Their message was Red Revolution -- no different than the Socialists who were organizing the East. The Washingtonians forbade the Wobblies their constitutional right to free speech driving them from the street corners.
The cry went out for all the hoboes to come to Spokane to their assistance. Spokane was now overrun by itinerants as the Knights of the Road responded to the call.
The attitude of the Washingtonians was punishing. Wobblies were arrested by the hundred, thrown into unheated jails in the middle of winter, which can get pretty cold in Spokane, where water hoses were then turned on them. Many had their health broken for life. The civil rights demonstrators in the South in the 1960s had it easy in comparison, there's a big difference between being sprayed with a hose in hot Alabama and being soused at zero degrees.
Their ire aroused, the Wobblies swore to fight to the end. They became very active in the mining and timber camps of the Northwest spreading a feeling of repugnance rather than fear. Everywhere they were denied their constitutional rights. The South was never like this. Every attorney in Portland, Oregon took an oath that he would refuse to defend a Wobbly in court for any reason, thus they became outlaws -- fair game for both police and private citizens.
Nothing daunted, the Wobblies moved down the coast to Fresno in the fruit harvesting season, preventing the growers from harvesting their crops. In those days, before Mexican braceros were brought up, the crops were picked by itinerant Whites who were housed as poorly and cheated as badly as the Mexicans, if not worse. Check out the story of the Wheatland Strike. Whites have more compassion for other peoples and races than they do for their own.
The Wobblies followed the same tactics in Fresno as they had in Spokane. They were too many for the Californians, literally. The expense of fighting and jailing them nearly bankrupted the city. Fresno threw in the towel giving the victory to the Wobblies.
Heady with success the Wobblies now prepared to use the same tactics on the city of San Diego. This was a serious tactical error. Never use the same joke three times running. The San Diegans had been watching quietly realizing that they would be next. They were ready for the Wobblies.
The advance guard slid into town to orate from street corners. In order to foil the police they chained themselves to light poles making it more difficult to remove them.
The logistical problem that the Wobblies didn't take into consideration was that there ws only one rail line from LA to San Diego. The Wobblies weren't suspicious when the railroad bulls allowed them free access to the trains in LA. The bulls called ahead to San Diego to let them know the Wobblies were on the way.
The San Diegans were prepared and mean as hell.
As the Wobblies tumbled from the boxcars, slid off the top and crawled from the rods they were met by a posse swinging baseball bats and rubber hoses. In the adjacent fields, men stood beside glowing fires heating barrels of tar and branding irons which read IWW.
I think it's fair to say that Custer almost fared better at the Little Big Horn. At least he didn't have to carry unpleasant memories for years every time he looked at his ass.
A disheartened group of Wobblies moved up the tracks out of town battered and bruised, tarred and feathered, many bearing a big red glowing IWW on their buttocks.
Boy, I mean, you know, that hurts; that's castration, it takes some of the fight out of you; changes your tactics; ruins your sexual orientation.
That debacle occurred just before ERB took his first vacation to San Diego in 1913. The subject was still a hot one so that he could add that to his resentment of Coxey of 1894.
The year 1912 was a tough one for IWW. Ostensibly allied with the Socialists, the IWW attended the convention of that year at which they were thrown out of the coalition. The eastern Socialists were mainly of the immigrant Jewish Group who wore suits. They were offended by these Western hoboes with their talk of the Big Rock Candy Mountain now reduced to the slogan "One Big Union."
When Wobblies broke into song with their anthem, "Hallelujah, I'm A Bum," the Jewish Socialists refused to lift their voices in unison, instead giving the hoboes the bum's rush. The Wobblies were ejected.
Meanwhile the WFM was having trouble with the Guggenheim mining interests in Colorado. The Ludlow Massacre there was preceded by another at Holly Grove, West Virginia. In that one the authorities had made an armored train with which they crept up on the striking miners sleeping in a field. Opening up with machine guns they cut right through the early morning haze.
In 1914 the fracas ended in the Ludlow Massacre in Colorado when the authorities once again machine gunned women and children. Let the Civil Righters match that. Remembering Holly Grove, the miners had wisely excavated the floors of their tents so the bullets whistled harmlessly overhead. They had been wise enough but the pits were no defense against the fire bombs which followed. Many women and children were incinerated. They were all White Folks.
Then in 1916 the Everett, Washington massacre occurred in which Wobblies traveling from Seattle to Everett by ferry were fired on with some few killed and many others wounded.
These were scary and brutal times. The WFM and Wobblies didn't give up. Hell no, they were brave and free Americans.
These were active times for the IWW as reflected in Burroughs' last two parts of the Mucker Trilogy.
The Beasts of Tarzan
The Burroughs Family Cross-Country Auto Adventure
(Joan Burroughs Bio)
Jungle Tales of Tarzan
The Land That Time Forgot: ERB C.H.A.S.E.R
The Land That Time Forgot (e-Text Edition)
Marcia of the Doorstep
The Mucker: ERB C.H.A.S.E.R
A Princess of Mars: ERB C.H.A.S.E.R.
A Princess of Mars (e-Text Edition)
The Son of Tarzan
Tarzan and the Jewels of Opar: ERB C.H.A.S.E.R.
Tarzan and the Jewels of Opar (e-Text Edition)
Tarzan of the Apes: ERB C.H.A.S.E.R
Tarzan of the Apes (e-Text Edition)
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